ISTANBUL: The Russian and Turkish defence ministers discussed a potential grain exports corridor from Ukraine and northern Syria on Tuesday (Jun 7), Turkey's defence ministry said, as Ankara and Moscow prepare for talks between their foreign ministers.
NATO member Turkey shares a sea border with both Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea, and has been working to mediate in their war. It has supported Kyiv, but refused to impose sanctions on Moscow. Russia and Turkey also back opposing sides in Syria.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced two weeks ago that his country would launch new military offensives into northern Syria targeting the Kurdish YPG militia, which it deems a terrorist organisation.
During a call, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu that "the necessary response will be given to actions aimed at disrupting the stability achieved in the region and the presence of terrorists in the region is not acceptable," Turkey's Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Ankara says it must act because Washington and Moscow broke promises to push the YPG 30km from the border after a 2019 Turkish offensive, and says attacks from YPG-controlled areas have increased.
Akar also "reminded that previous agreements on this issue need to be adhered to," his office said.
The defence ministers spoke a day before the two countries' foreign ministers meet in Ankara for talks on United Nations-led efforts to open a safe corridor for Ukrainian grain shipments and Syria.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February halted Kyiv's Black Sea grain exports, threatening a global food crisis.
Akar and Shoigu evaluated "all measures that can be taken regarding the safe shipment of grains, sunflower, and all other agricultural products", the Turkish Defence Ministry said.
Earlier, Akar had said Turkey was in contact with Russia and Ukraine to conclude the efforts soon.
Ukraine's embassy in Ankara said Kyiv was exerting "maximum effort" to lift blockades on its ports, but added there was no agreement yet on the issue between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey.
"Any deal that does not take into consideration Ukraine's interests will be rejected by us," it said.
The embassy also said recent Russian attacks showed Moscow may try to use the potential corridor to move on the southern port of Odesa and called for "effective security guarantees" before starting shipments. These included ensuring Ukraine had the weapons to protect its shores from any naval threats and that the navy of third countries be involved to protect relevant parts of the Black Sea.